“Jasmine Revolution”
Symbol of peace: Flowers placed on the barrel of a tank
in very much calmer protests than in recent days in Tunisia

'The Protester' - Time Person of the Year 2011

'The Protester' - Time Person of the Year 2011
Mannoubia Bouazizi, the mother of Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi. "Mohammed suffered a lot. He worked hard. but when he set fire to himself, it wasn’t about his scales being confiscated. It was about his dignity." (Peter Hapak for TIME)

How eyepatches became a symbol of Egypt's revolution - Graffiti depicting a high ranking army officer with an eye patch Photograph: Nasser Nasser/ASSOCIATED PRESS

2 - EGYPT Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

''17 February Revolution"

3 - LIBYA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

5 - SYRIA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

"25 January Youth Revolution"
Muslim and Christian shoulder-to-shoulder in Tahrir Square
"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -
(Subjects: Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" (without a manager hierarchy) managed Businesses, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)
"The End of History" – Nov 20, 2010 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll)
(Subjects:Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Muhammad, Jesus, God, Jews, Arabs, EU, US, Israel, Iran, Russia, Africa, South America, Global Unity,..... etc.) (Text version)

"If an Arab and a Jew can look at one another and see the Akashic lineage and see the one family, there is hope. If they can see that their differences no longer require that they kill one another, then there is a beginning of a change in history. And that's what is happening now. All of humanity, no matter what the spiritual belief, has been guilty of falling into the historic trap of separating instead of unifying. Now it's starting to change. There's a shift happening."

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."

Heads of governments during the opening session of the African Union summit
on January 30, 2014 at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa (AFP, Samuel Gebru)

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela
Few words can describe Nelson Mandela, so we let him speak for himself. Happy birthday, Madiba.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sudan Christian woman spared death sentence arrives in Rome

Yahoo – AFP, 24 July 2014

File image shows Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag (C), a Christian Sudanese woman
 sentenced to hang for apostasy, with husband (L), her newborn baby and
20-month-old son and members of the legal team at an undisclosed location
in Khartoum on June 23, 2014 (AFP)

A Sudanese Christian woman who was sentenced to death for renouncing Islam, then acquitted after intense international pressure on Khartoum, arrived on Thursday in Rome with her family en route to the United States.

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag was greeted on the tarmac by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzo and his wife as well as Foreign Minister Lapo Pistelli.

"Today is a day of celebration", Renzi said.

A global outcry erupted in May after Ishag was sentenced under Sharia law to 100 lashings and then to hang for apostasy.

Days after her conviction, she gave birth to a second child in prison.

Ishag's conviction was overturned in June, but she was immediately rearrested while trying to leave Sudan using what prosecutors claimed were forged documents.

Two days later, Ishag was released from prison and she and her family -- including her American husband and two young children -- took refuge in the US embassy.

Ishag was born to a Muslim father who abandoned the family, and was raised by her Ethiopian Orthodox Christian mother, according to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Khartoum which said she joined the Catholic church shortly before she married.

Ishag was convicted under Islamic Sharia law that has been in force in Sudan since 1983 and outlaws conversions which are punishable by death.

Her case has raised questions of religious freedom and sparked an outcry from Western governments and human rights groups.

Sudanese Christian woman spared death sentence meets Pope Francis (AFP)

Related Article:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Worldwide FGM ban sought at 'Girl Summit' in London

Yahoo – AFP, Danny Kemp, 22 July 2014

British Prime Minister David Cameron mets campaigners and activists at the
 'Girl Summit 2014' at Walworth Academy in south London on July 22, 2014
(AFP Photo/Will Oliver)

London (AFP) - British Prime Minister David Cameron called on Tuesday for a worldwide ban on female genital mutilation and child marriage as he launched the first UN-backed "Girl Summit" on issues that affect millions around the globe.

Cameron announced that parents in Britain would face prosecution for failing to prevent their daughters from being subjected to FGM, while setting out steps to tackle both practices in developing nations.

"Our aim is to outlaw FGM and child marriage everywhere for everyone," Cameron told the summit in London, to applause from an audience of experts and campaigners from around the world.

Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai (L)
 listens to British Prime Minister David 
Cameron as he speaks at the 'Girl Summit
 2014' at Walworth Academy in south London
on on July 22, 2014 (AFP Photo/Oli Scarff)
FGM, which affects tens of millions of women, particularly in the Horn of Africa, ranges from removal of the clitoris to the mutilation and removal of other female genitalia. It can leave girls at risk of prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility and even death.

Cameron acknowledged that ending FGM and child marriage was no easy task, saying they ranked alongside the global health threats of polio and tuberculosis in terms of the commitment needed to tackle them.

But he argued: "All girls have the right to live free from violence and coercion, without being forced into marriage or the lifelong physical and psychological effects of female genital mutilation.

"Abhorrent practices like these, no matter how deeply rooted in societies, violate the rights of girls and women across the world, including here in the UK.

"I want to build a better future for all our girls and I am hosting the Girl Summit today so that we say with one voice -- let's end these practices once and for all."

The summit, which is co-hosted by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), will produce an "international charter" calling for the eradication of FGM and child marriage within a generation.

The summit will also launch new programmes to prevent child and forced marriage in 12 developing nations.

Speakers at the event included Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who recovered from being shot in the head by the Taliban and is now a campaigner for girls' education.

"We should have the right to change traditions and we should make the changes. We ask that there be no more FGM or child marriage," Malala told the summit.

"We should not be followers of traditions that go against human rights... we are human beings and we make traditions."

Map of Africa showing countries where female genital mutilation
is most prevalent, created on February 19, 2014 (AFP Photo)

'Accelerate our efforts'

UNICEF warned in a new report that while the rate of FGM and child marriage has fallen over the past three decades, population increase in developing nations alone could reverse this trend if "intensive action" is not introduced.

More than 130 million girls and women have experienced some form of FGM in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the practice is most common, it said.

More than 700 million women worldwide were married as children, UNICEF added.

"The numbers tell us we must accelerate our efforts," said UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake.

Indian actress and Plan International Girls' 
Rights Ambassador Freida Pinto listens
 to speakers at the 'Girl Summit 2014' at
 Walworth Academy in south London on
July 22, 2014 (AFP Photo/Oli Scarff)
"FGM and child marriage profoundly and permanently harm girls, denying them their right to make their own decisions and to reach their full potential."

Cameron confirmed that Britain would introduce legislation under which doctors and teachers would be required by law to report FGM, while parents who allow their daughters to be cut will be prosecuted.

British lawmakers earlier this month said the prevalence of FGM in the country was a "national scandal", warning that up to 170,000 women may have had the procedure and another 65,000 young girls were at risk.

A damning report from the House of Commons home affairs committee condemned the failure of the government, police, health and education authorities over many years to address what it said was an "extreme form of child abuse".

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Desmond Tutu plea for 'assisted dying' before historic Lords debate

Archbishop calls for 'mind shift' on right to die and condemns as 'disgraceful' the treatment of the dying Nelson Mandela

The Guardian, The Observer, David Smith and Daniel Boffey, Saturday 12 July 2014

Archbishop Desmond Tutu was speaking ahead of a debate in the House on Lords
on Lord Falconer's assisted dying bill. Photograph: News Pictures/Rex Features

Desmond Tutu, one of the world's most eminent religious leaders, has made an extraordinary intervention in the debate over assisted death, by backing the right of the terminally ill to end their lives in dignity.

Writing in the Observer, the 82-year-old retired Anglican archbishop, revered as the "moral conscience" of South Africa, says that laws that prevent people being helped to end their lives are an affront to those affected and their families.

He also condemns as "disgraceful" the treatment of his old friend Nelson Mandela, who was kept alive through numerous painful hospitalisations and forced to endure a photo stunt with politicians shortly before his death at 95.

Tutu, who calls for a "mind shift" in the right to die debate, writes: "I have been fortunate to spend my life working for dignity for the living. Now I wish to apply my mind to the issue of dignity for the dying. I revere the sanctity of life – but not at any cost."

Tutu's intervention comes at the start of a momentous week in the assisted dying debate. On Friday, the House of Lords will witness one of the most significant moments in its recent history when peers debate an assisted dying bill proposed by the former lord chancellor, Lord Falconer. A record number of peers – 110 so far – have registered to speak.

On Saturday the former archbishop of Canterbury Lord (George) Carey spoke out in favour of the bill. But in an article in the Times, Justin Welby, the current archbishop and head of the Church of England, reaffirmed the church's traditional hostility to any move that would endanger the principle of the sanctity of life. In a sign of the debate that has now been unleashed within the Anglican communion, the bishop of Carlisle, the Right Rev James Newcome, called for a royal commission to examine the "important issue" at length.

Falconer's proposed legislation would make it legal for a doctor to hand over a lethal medication to a terminally ill patient who is believed to have less than six months to live.

Tutu notes that Falconer's bill will be debated on Mandela Day, which would have been the 96th birthday of South Africa's first black president. He calls for his own country to follow Britain's lead in examining a change in the law.

"On Mandela Day we will be thinking of a great man," he writes. "On the same day, on 18 July 2014 in London, the House of Lords will be holding a second hearing on Lord Falconer's bill on assisted dying. Oregon, Washington, Quebec, Holland, Switzerland have already taken this step. South Africa has a hard-won constitution that we are proud of that should provide a basis to guide changes to be made on the legal status of end-of-life wishes to support the dignity of the dying."

Speaking to the Observer, Falconer, who said he was now confident that his bill would live on in parliament beyond Friday's debate, claimed that the intervention by Tutu illustrated that religious faith should be no obstacle to supporting a change in the law. He said: "I am really glad that someone of his stature is taking part in this important debate. It is a debate in which countries look to other countries for guidance. For someone of Archbishop Tutu's stature, understanding and human experience to speak out is really welcome. He is an Anglican bishop who has shown his moral strength to the world better than anybody. I very much hope that it will indicate that religion is not a bar to supporting this bill."

A London rabbi, Jonathan Romain, speaking on behalf of 60 religious leaders in support of the Falconer proposals, said he believed that backing the bill was the "religious response" to a situation where medical progress allowed people to live on in a physical and mental state that many felt was intolerable. He said: "I see no sanctity in suffering, nothing holy about agony."

Jane Nicklinson, widow of the campaigner Tony Nicklinson, a sufferer of locked-in syndrome who fought for the right to be helped to die in the UK, said she believed public opinion was now in favour of change, adding: "I hope that it is true among those that matter – the decision-makers."

Falconer's proposals are being fiercely opposed by key figures such as Welby, and campaigners for the rights of disabled people. Richard Hawkes, chief executive of the disability charity Scope, said he feared the bill would put some people under pressure to end their lives. He said: "Why is it that when people who are not disabled want to commit suicide, we try to talk them out of it, but when a disabled person wants to commit suicide, we focus on how we can make that possible?"

However, in his article for the Observer, Tutu says that he has been moved by the case of a 28-year-old South African, Craig Schonegevel, who suffered from neurofibromatosis and felt forced to end his life by swallowing 12 sleeping pills and tying two plastic bags around his head with elastic bands because doctors could not help him.

Tutu writes: "Some say that palliative care, including the giving of sedation to ensure freedom from pain, should be enough for the journeying towards an easeful death. Some people opine that with good palliative care there is no need for assisted dying, no need for people to request to be legally given a lethal dose of medication. That was not the case for Craig Schonegevel. Others assert their right to autonomy and consciousness – why exit in the fog of sedation when there's the alternative of being alert and truly present with loved ones?"

He also discloses that he has now had a conversation with his family about his own death. "I have come to realise that I do not want my life to be prolonged artificially," he writes. "I think when you need machines to help you breathe then you have to ask questions about the quality of life being experienced and about the way money is being spent. This may be hard for some people to consider.

"But why is a life that is ending being prolonged? Why is money being spent in this way? It could be better spent on a mother giving birth to a baby, or an organ transplant needed by a young person. Money should be spent on those that are at the beginning or in full flow of their life. Of course, these are my personal opinions and not of my church."

There was bitter controversy in South Africa in April last year when President Jacob Zuma and other African National Congress politicians visited Mandela at his home with a TV crew. The statesman looked weak, rheumy-eyed and uncomprehending. Mandela's family and personal assistant condemned the publicity stunt as exploitative and in poor taste. Tutu echoes that view. "What was done to Madiba was disgraceful," he writes. "There was that occasion when Madiba was televised with political leaders, President Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa. You could see that Madiba was not fully there. He did not speak. He was not connecting. My friend was no longer himself. It was an affront to Madiba's dignity."

"People should die a decent death," he continues. "For me that means having had the conversations with those I have crossed with in life and being at peace. It means being able to say goodbye to loved ones – if possible, at home."

He adds: "I can see I would probably incline towards the quality of life argument, whereas others will be more comfortable with palliative care. Yes, I think a lot of people would be upset if I said I wanted assisted dying. I would say I wouldn't mind, actually."

Tutu, who chaired South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and admitted he was "angry with God" during apartheid, has never been afraid to take unpopular positions or stir debate. Mandela once said of him: "Sometimes strident, often tender, never afraid and seldom without humour, Desmond Tutu's voice will always be the voice of the voiceless."

Related Articles:

You, as a Human Being, are designed to appreciate and love life. But you put it in a box. You think you live once. You say, life is precious; make it count; keep it going at all costs; make it work. And the underlying thought is that because you only go around one time, all the purpose is wrapped up in one lifetime. Well, I'm going to give you something to think about, something that happened just recently that tens of millions of people all over earth who have the western news media know of.

It was all about one woman's life, and you know who I'm talking about. I'm talking about Terri [Terri Schiavo]. And I'm going to talk about Terri because, you know, she's here [speaking of the real Terri]! And I'm going to give you a perspective about Terri that perhaps you hadn't thought about before, and as I do it, she's going to watch.

It's very metaphysical, you know? This perspective is one from my side of the veil. Terri leaned into the wind of birth many years ago, just as you did. I was there, too. There were potentials laying in front of her - a track that she could take if she wished. There was no predestination, only predispositions of energy that laid before her: the parents she would have (which she had selected), the man she might meet or marry, the accident waiting to happen. All of these things were in her "potential track," and she could have chosen not to go there.

But like so many of you, she looked at it and examined it. These were the times we spoke to her and said, "Dear one, you're going into another Human lifetime that has a potential that's awesome - grander than most Humans on the planet will ever experience. You'll get to present something to tens of millions of people. You'll make them think about life. You'll change the legal system of your country. You'll awaken peoples' awareness to situations that need to be addressed with respect to morality, integrity, and even intuition. Will you do it?"

And I remember what she said. The grand angel who stood before me, who you now call Terri, smiled broadly and said, "I'm ready for that." And some of you cry in your sorrow and say "Why is this Human dead? How could such a thing be tolerated? Why would such a thing happen? Life is so precious." And I ask you this, as Terri looks on in her joy, would you take this away from her? Would you take that away from humanity, what she showed and did that resulted directly in her passing?

Start thinking of these things, perhaps differently. We've told you before that there are even those Human Beings who come in with a predisposition of suicide! What a horrible thought, you might say. "Kryon, could that even be appropriate?" And we say this: More than appropriate, it's by design! "But why should that be?" You might say. "What a horrible dishonorable death." And if that's your reaction, you're placing the whole grand picture in your own little Human box.

When you start examining it spiritually, without Human bias, you start to see that around a suicide there's this energy that develops. It's all about the family. Is there shame? Is there drama? Does it kick the family in the pants so that perhaps they might study things they never did - or perhaps they might they even look within themselves for spirituality? Blessed is the one that comes in with these tasks [like suicide]. There are so many of them who do. For these are the grease of personal change within families, and provide a gift that is grand!

You see, Spirit looks at these things differently. The curtain goes up, it goes down. You come and you go and there are profound lessons, some of which are taught harshly, by those who teach them through their own deaths.

"Well, what is it Kryon? Don't dodge the question with a diversion to suicide, for this isn't what Terri did. Is it proper or is it improper to have somebody in this vegetative state put to death by others around her?" Our answer: Exactly which Human are you talking about? You want a blanket answer, don't you? For six and half billion souls and paths, you want one answer for all. Well, you won't get one. For Terri, the answer is a solid yes. It was as it should have been. She came in with this grand opportunity to change the world, and she did it while everyone watched.

There is appropriateness in all things and sometimes you create for yourselves what seems to be inappropriate. Yet later you understand what the gift was within the challenge. Celebrate Terri, and don't think of this as a shameful thing that Humans did to her. Think of it instead as a book that was written for you to look at, one which pushes you to a place to ask, "What should we do about this now, personally? What should our legislatures do about this, if anything? How can we approach these things more humanely and with more honor? Is our culture addressing this issue? Are we addressing this issue personally?" Let's put these questions where they belong. It's not about "right to life"; it's about the appropriateness of "this life." Each case is individual, and some are profoundly given for the planet and for those around the individual.

Oh, as all of you came into this planet and leaned into the wind of birth separately, each was unique. Each of you has a different story, a different goal, but all have the same purpose: the elevation of the vibration of the planet. Sometimes it happens to many of you at the same time. We'll get to that before we finish. ..."

"THE THREE WINDS" – Feb 23-24, 2013 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Humanity, Home - other side of the veil, Wind of Birth - Birth, Wind of Existence - Life, Wind of Transition - Death) (Text version)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Ghana's amputee footballers strive for international glory

Yahoo – AFP, Chris Stein, 11 July 2014

Amputee footballers jostle for control of the ball during a practice match
on May 7 in Accra (AFP Photo)

Accra (AFP) - On a field scattered with rubbish, ripe with the smell of urine and criss-crossed by commuters and the occasional truck, a group of Ghanaian footballers practise drills, the early morning sun glinting off their metal crutches.

While footballers around the globe have their eyes on Brazil, Ghana's national amputee football team is gearing up to compete in a world cup of its own in Mexico later this year.

But standing between the Black Challenge side and victory in the 2014 Amputee Football World Cup are not just old foes such as Argentina and Liberia.

An amputee footballer kicks the ball
 during a practice on May 10 in
Accra (AFP Photo/Chris Stein)
The team's ability to attract support for their unique brand of football is also in the balance, and unless they can raise the money needed to fund the trip, they may not go at all.

That hasn't stopped them preparing.

"We don't have much time, so we have to train hard," said one of the team's coaches, Benjamin Armah, as he watched his veteran players trickle in for an early practice session on a warm May morning in the capital, Accra.

The Black Challenge started officially in 2007 -- the same year the team won the first Cup of African Nations for Amputee Football, said Theodore Viwotor, administrative secretary for the Ghana Amputee Football Association.

The team came in sixth in the 2012 World Cup held in Russia, after Argentina eliminated the Ghanaians in the preliminary round.

In last year's cup of nations in Nairobi, the team was placed third after being knocked out by Liberia in the semi-finals.

Black Challenge coaches will hold trials in Ghana's two largest cities in August, choosing a squad from new recruits and returning team members for the tournament in November.

Poles apart

The rules in amputee football are much the same as in regular soccer, albeit adapted to take into account what the World Amputee Football Federation calls its "abbreviated" players.

International matches are played with seven on each side for two 25 minute periods, there is no offside and kick-ins replace throw-ins.

On the pitch, the movements stand out.

Outfield players -- all of them missing either an entire single lower limb or part of one -- dash across the field on metal crutches, using them for support as they jostle for the ball and kick goals home.

People with one missing or malformed arm are enlisted as goalkeepers.

While the ranks of Angola and Sierra Leone's amputee football teams are made up of those who lost limbs in brutal conflict, most of Ghana's players were victims of accidents or illness.

"I knew I could still play because I was already a footballer," said Mubarak Ademu, a striker who lost his leg in a car accident when he was aged six.

The Black Challenge's returning players say they are less worried about their fitness to compete than they are about paying their way to the world cup.

The team's practice pitch is a patch of dirt near Accra's shoreline that doubles as a car park, a garbage dump and an open-air toilet for a nearby shantytown.

Just down the street from the amputees' lot, Ghana's national football team, the Black Stars, practise in a monolithic stadium.

The Black Stars came home from Brazil early after failing to advance from the so-called "Group of Death" in the qualifying round, which included Germany, United States and Portugal.

The team's performance was a disappointment to many Ghanaians, as was the drama that occurred behind the scenes in the team's camp.

The players demanded that $3 million (2.2 million euros) in appearance fees be flown to them in Brazil on a charter flight in advance of what ended up being their final game against Portugal.

This ultimatum grated on many in Ghana, which is fighting the fallout from a depreciating currency, a yawning deficit due to falling commodities prices such as gold, plus slower-than-expected growth in its nascent oil sector.

Ghana's John Boye (C) reacts to scoring an own goal with Jonathan Mensah (R)
 during the match between Portugal and Ghana in Brasilia on June 26, 2014
(AFP Photo/Gabriel Bouys)

"It's at times very painful that virtually everything is pushed to the Black Stars," Viwotor said. "Government should appreciate that every sport that represents the nation should be given attention."

Money troubles

Going to Mexico will cost about $200,000, Viwotor said. So far, only $22,500 has been raised, from private sponsors.

Without the team, Viwotor wonders what would become of the club's players.

Local governments in Ghana are required to give part of their budget to support people with disabilities.

But the bureaucracy required to access the money is daunting. At traffic lights in Accra, legless men on skateboards appear at the windows of waiting drivers, asking for spare change.

"Many of these people would probably be beggars or have lost hope in life," Viwotor said. "When you watch a one-legged person playing, it gives a sort of hope."

Days after their early morning practice, the Black Challenge arrived at a sports complex in an upscale suburb of Accra, where they split into two squads and played against each other.

Players with cerebral palsy joined in, showing little advantage over the crutch-wielding footballers, despite having use of both of their legs.

Frank Wilson, a non-disabled footballer who watched the Black Challenge play from the side-lines, was impressed by the rigours of the adapted game.

"They put in a lot of effort to play their game," he said.

Hundreds of Ghanaian football fans travelled to Brazil 
to follow their team in the World Cup

Related Article:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Israelis and Palestinians trade accusations as Ban appeals for ceasefire

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appealed for calm in the Middle East, calling for "bold thinking and creative ideas" to end the clashes. Israelis and Palestinians traded blame in the emergency Security Council session.

Deutsche Welle, 10 July 2014

The UN chief Ban Ki-moon told an emergency Security Council assembly on Thursday that it was more urgent than ever to calm tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, warning of an "all-out escalation" unless action was taken.

"Now is not a time for further incitement or vengeance," Ban said. "We must not let spoilers prevail. We must keep the situation from getting any further out of control."

Israel's military hit hundreds
of Gaza targets overnight
Ban condemned rocket fire into Israel from Hamas and militants in the Gaza Strip, but also issued a clear message to Israel, saying "the excessive use of force and endangering of civilian lives are also intolerable."

Ban said that many of the 88 Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes in recent days were civilians, while more than 300 have been injured and around 900 displaced.

"Once again, Palestinian civilians are caught between Hamas' irresponsibility and Israel's tough response," Ban said.

Israeli and Palestinian ambassadors at odds

Israel's ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, and his Palestinian counterpart, Riyad Mansour, both addressed the Council on Thursday; each side blamed the other for the latest escalation in fighting.

Prosor stressed the impact
of Gaza's rocket strikes
Prosor played audio from his cell phone of an 
Israeli air raid siren into the microphone during his address: "Fifteen seconds, that's how much time you have to run for your life," Prosor said, calling rockets from Gaza a threat to 3.5 million people.

"Condemn Hamas, condemn terrorism and condemn the rocket fire and support Israel's right to defend itself. This is the only way, but the only way to achieve comprehensive peace," Prosor said.

Mansour, on the other hand, said that increased rocket fire into Israel was a response both to airstrikes and to Israeli reprisals following the abduction and killing of three teenagers.

"They started the attack against our people in the occupied territory including Gaza and the rockets started after that," Mansour said after the Council session. He said Palestinians would honor any proposed ceasefire, before claiming "it is obvious that the Israeli side are not interested in a ceasefire and stopping the rockets."

Israeli jets struck 300 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip overnight, part of an offensive dubbed "Operation Protective Edge" by the Israel Defense Forces. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not ruled out a ground invasion of Gaza, also authorizing the mobilization of up to 40,000 reservists.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Saudi human rights activist sentenced to 15 years in prison

Saudi human rights activist Walid Abu al-Khair has been sentenced to 15 years in prison on sedition charges. He's the founder of Monitor Human Rights in Saudi Arabia.

Deutsche Welle, 6 July 2014

The Saudi court in Jeddah also banned al-Khair on Sunday from travelling outside of the ultraconservative kingdom for an additional 15 years and slapped him with a 200,000 riyal ($53,300) fine. His websites were also shut down.

He was convicted on charges of breaking allegiance to King Abdullah, disrespecting authorities, and creating an unauthorized association. Al-Khair has been under house arrest since April 16.

"Walid does not recognize the legitimacy of this court, refuses to accept its verdict and has no intention to appeal," al-Khair's wife, Samar Badawi, told the AFP news agency.

According to Badawi, her husband faces other charges for setting up the group Monitor Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (MHRS) without a permit. She says that al-Khair sought a permit, but received no response from the authorities. Afterward, he set up an MHRS Facebook page which has attracted thousands of followers.

The lawyer has been critical of Saudi Arabia's anti-terrorism law, which critics say is used as a pretext to stiffle political dissent. Under the law, terrorism is defined as any act that "disturbs public order, shakes the security of society, or subjects its national unity to danger, or obstructs the primary system of rule or harms the reputation of state."

'Prisoner of conscience'

In October, al-Khair was sentenced to three months in jail for signing a petition in 2011 against the imprisonment of a group of activists demanding political reform. That same month, he was briefly detained and then released on bail after setting up an unauthorized meeting of activists.

In 2012, Saudi authorities banned al-Khair from traveling to the United States, where he was supposed to attend a forum at the State Department.

The London-based human rights group Amnesty International has called for al-Khair's immediate release.

"He is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally," said Amnesty's Said Boumedouha, calling al-Khair's detention "a worrying example of how Saudi Arabian authorities are abusing the justice system to silence peaceful dissent."

slk/hc (AFP, Reuters)

Friday, July 4, 2014

Boss of Yongkang firm arrested after fleeing to Uganda

Want China Times, Staff Reporter 2014-07-04

Yu Youjing. (Internet photo)

Yu Youjing, who runs the largest import and export company in Yongkang in eastern China's Zhejiang province, has been arrested in Entebbe in Uganda and escorted back to China, reports the state-run China News Service.

The 40-year-old woman made headlines in February this year after she was accused of taking out loans against her company of almost 150 million yuan (US$24 million) from more than 50 creditors including four state-owned banks, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, private guarantee institutions and companies and then snuck out of the country via Guangzhou.

Yu started her career as an insurance salesperson in 1998. She founded her own business selling cars two years later with the money she borrowed and 100,000 yuan (US$16,000) of her own money. In 2004, she decided to abandon the car business and established Zhejiang Baige import and export company for higher margins. Yu served as the company's legal representative and general manager.

The company has had one of the highest trading volumes in the city since 2007 and was giving a high rating as a trading company by the Jinhua government in central Zhejiang. In 2011, the company's exports exceeded US$50 million in value, one of the 30 highest among businesses in Jinhua and the third highest in Yongkang, reports Xiandai Jinbao, a Zhejiang-based newspaper directly affiliated with Xinhua News Agency.

Yongkang police set up a team to investigate Yu after she fled the country and discovered the contract scam. The police listed Yu as a fugitive on the internet and froze the company's bank accounts and assets.

On June 4, the Chinese public security bureau posted a red notice to Interpol, seeking her location and asking for her arrest. After obtaining information of her activities in Uganda on June 30, the bureau organized a team to arrest Yu in Entebbe. She was arrested on Wednesday morning in a joint operation between Chinese and Ugandan police.

She said she regretted fleeing to Uganda with the money as her brother had quickly gambled it all away, forcing her to look for new business opportunities all over Africa over the past five months. She was about to start a new company with her mother before being arrested and escorted back to China. Yu said she will take full responsibility for her mistakes and urged her mother to return to the country as well, reports the Hangzhou-based Qianjiang Evening News.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Zambian men acquitted of homosexuality charges

Yahoo – AFP, 3 July 2014

Accused of having relations "against the order of nature", James Mwape (R)
 and Philip Mubiana (L) are seen in a holding cell ahead of their trial at the
Kapiri Mposhi magistrate court on July 3, 2014 (AFP Photo)

Kapiri Mposhi (Zambia) (AFP) - Two Zambian men charged with having consensual gay sex have been acquitted after magistrates said the state failed to provide sufficient evidence in the high-profile case.

Philip Mubiana and James Mwape, both in their early 20s, had been held since May last year and faced 15 years or more in jail for having sexual relations "against the order of nature".

The pair's lawyer William Ngwira said it was a "welcome" ruling, but added: "We are only sad that our clients have been in detention for over a year."

Accused of having relations "against the
 order of nature", James Mwape (R) is
 comforted by his relative after he was
 acquitted by the Kapiri Mposhi magistrate
court on July 3, 2014 (AFP Photo)
The case had drawn the attention of rights groups and foreign governments, concerned that Zambia may be toughening its stance on gay rights following stricter new laws in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa.

In February, another Zambian magistrate acquitted top gay rights activist Paul Kasonkomona on charges of encouraging homosexuality after concluding that the prosecution failed to prove its case.

"The case should send a message to police, prosecutors and communities that it is not acceptable to witch-hunt people," said Anneke Meerkotter, a lawyer at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre.

"Actions driven by stigma and prejudice can cause immense suffering, not just of the people who were arrested, but also of their families."

Zambia's tough anti-homosexuality laws date back to the British colonial era and public opinion remains strongly against gays and lesbians.

Mubiana and Mwape were arrested in 2013 after being reported to the police by one of Mubiana's relatives.

As he left the court a free man, Mubiana said "I now want to go and study law."

But his grandmother, who was in court, said she was disappointed with the verdict.

"How I am going to have great grandchildren to look after me? I am old and I need children to look after me. This is not right, the law should be followed," she said.

Outside the court in Kapiri Mposhi, the small town 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of Lusaka where the trial took place, residents denounced Western governments for their support of the couple.

"Give us economic aid and not this rubbish. This is a Christian nation and we shall not allow same sex marriages. If you don't want to help us go back" local politician Kelvin Mukuka shouted at a European diplomat.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Biogas benefits in Tanzania

Biogas is becoming an important source of energy in Tanzania. It is gradually replacing traditional fossil fuels and, as a regional project shows, is also bringing about a rethink of traditional gender roles.

Deutsche Welle, 2 July 2014

For Diana Mangula, cooking has become much easier now that she no longer has to struggle with the smoke-emitting firewood she used to burn on her three-stone stove.

Mangula never enjoyed using the firewood that filled her entire house with smoke. But, like most residents of Ibumila village in the Njombe region of Tanzania, she has now found a cleaner source of energy to fulfil her cooking and lighting needs.

Biogas is a clean, combustible, renewable gas produced by organic waste. Agriculture experts say it is much cheaper than traditional fossil fuel since farmers can obtain it from their own resources.

Diana Mangula cuts grass to feed
her three cows
Just a few minutes a day

Mangula, a 37-year-old mother of three, used to spend a lot of time and energy collecting firewood. But ever since she installed a biogas plant four years ago, all her miseries are over as she can now generate enough energy to meet her family's growing needs, thanks to her three dairy cows.

"Just imagine, I only spend a few minutes every day mixing cow dung with water and the moment I feed it into the digester, I am assured of enough energy," she said.

The biogas digester consists of two containers, one for mixing manure and water and the other for collecting the resulting biogas which is enough to fire a cooking stove and several gas lanterns.

According to researchers from Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Morogoro, biogas technology is increasingly becoming a relevant source of energy for households that keep dairy cattle in Njombe, as it covers their cooking and lighting needs and also helps farmers to cut down the use of charcoal, firewood and kerosene.

Joint project

Together with the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), SUA is running a project looking at the productivity of the dairy farming system in Njombe.

The majority of people in rural Tanzania who do not have access to grid electricity depend on traditional fossil fuels for lighting and cooking and this exerts huge pressure on the country's forests.

"I have been spending a lot of money buying kerosene but it has now been replaced with gas and I am now saving the money," Mangula said.

Slurry, a by-product of biogas, is a very good fertilizer

According to the Tanzanian Domestic Biogas Program (TDBP), which is also involved in the project, biogas use has noticeably eased the lives of rural women and children who often bore the brunt of family responsibilities, for example, by collecting firewood.

TDBP Program Coordinator Shila Lehada told DW that independence from traditional fossil fuels can save a household using biogas up to 600,000 Tanzanian shillings ($355, 260 euros) every year.

According to Lehada, biogas investment has also resulted in a changing perception of gender roles as male members of the families are actively involved in preparing inputs for biogas.
"We help each other, everybody feels they have a role to play, there's nothing like 'this is a woman's job'," Mangula said, confirming Lehada's findings.

In her case, the dairy cattle have improved her family's nutrition by increasing their milk consumption. And the income from selling milk to the local factory has also helped her to buy fish and meat.

As a result, her family has been able to double the amount of meals a day from two to four since cooking is now much easier.

“When I was still using wood I could hardly prepare breakfast for my children before they went to school but now I have the comfort to do so,” Mangula said.

Five year project

Biogas technology was first established in Njombe in 2004 with the aim of making farmers' energy sources more environmentally friendly. Under a five-year project dubbed "Enhancing Pro-Poor Innovations in Natural Resources and Agricultural Value Chains" (EPINAV). funded by the Norwegian government, farmers are learning best practices and techniques to improve agricultural productivity.

Ndelilio Urio, a conservation agriculture expert and professor at SUA, told DW that bio-slurry has proved to be a more nutritious fertilizer than ordinary dried manure since the amount of urea in the slurry works better as a nitrogen supplement for the soil.

"We have trained farmers on how to use bio-slurry as fertilizer, especially in their home gardens where they produce vegetables and fruits." Urio said. He agreed with Shila Lehada's observation that because of these economic benefits men are now taking a greater interest in feeding the biogas plants with the necessary inputs.